Spotlight On: Megan Condon
Meghan Condon, associate professor in the Department of Political Science, has published The Economic Other: Inequality in the American Political Imagination by the University of Chicago Press, 2020)
Our summer spotlight shines this month on Meghan Condon, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Political Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, who has co-authored The Economic Other: Inequality in the American Political Imagination.
Condon’s book examines American democratic life in an era of rapidly growing economic inequality. She investigates how the conditions of economic, racial, and gender inequality combine to structure political behavior and attitudes. She also studies the effects of policies and programs designed to reduce inequality, especially in civic engagement. The Economic Other examines how people in the United States perceive and respond to rapidly growing inequality.
For decades, public opinion scholars have attempted to determine why the American public has not responded to growing inequality with increased demands for economic redistribution. This body of research has been focused primarily on people’s objective circumstances—like income—and their knowledge of economic facts. Missing from the story was subjective status perception, or where people think they stand relative to others, which does not always map onto objective measures.
Condon, along with co-author Amber Wichowsky of Marquette University, wondered if there might be something about when and how Americans compare themselves with others across class divides that interferes with their perceptions of inequality and mutes demand for the government to do something about it. Their book illustrates how people understand inequality through interpersonal, status-based thinking, and demonstrates that opportunities for cross-class interaction and comparison have declined over the last half century, insulating American politics from growing inequality. The book explains that the American response to inequality has been anemic because at the same time that economic inequality has grown, most Americans have had fewer of the social comparative experiences that make inequality salient, mobilize support for redistribution, and empower public action.
“Professor Condon’s book is a groundbreaking work of social science research that combines quantitative and qualitative measures to provide fresh insights into a topic that is timely and relevant to American political discourse and values,” said Peter J. Schraeder, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Loyola University Chicago. “In its focus on economic inequality and our individual and collective reactions to it, Condon’s book highlights an issue that affects all of us and therefore that is central to understanding American democracy.”
Condon is currently working on a follow-up book to The Economic Other that investigates whether there are political messages which foster support for aid to the poor and political engagement–even in an era of growing inequality.